Finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon
Featured,Race Reviews,Running,Stories

2013 Boston Marathon – Finding Gratitude in Despair

I always write a post after a race. I’m a runner and blogger, that’s what we do. I had scheduled to post a “Boston Recap” on April 17, 2013 back in February. But I didn’t anticipate this experience. And I didn’t anticipate having quite so much to say. But only 17,500 runners on the planet had or ever will have had this experience. I don’t know how many out there care to hear about how it all went down from my perspective, but for my own sake, I feel compelled to get through this with a certain level of detail. So I’m tying together a traditional marathon runner blog along with what may have been a an eye witness to a terrorist attack. Certainly something I’d never thought I’d be privy to write about….

My Marathon Experience – off to a great start.

April 15, 2013 I woke up optimistic. Doubtful, because I felt like my Boston marathon training had lacked a little (that pesky runner burnout had set in), but all signs pointed to a great race. I had a wonderful pre-race run Sunday, was surrounded by great friends and the weather was top notch. We had fueled up the night before, slept well and was super hydrated. What more could a marathon girl ask for? This was to be my 10th marathon, and my first Boston experience.

I always have three time related goals in mind.

  • First, is the “if I don’t run X, I’ll be devastated, angry, and disappointed – run for the hills if you see me because I’m about to blow.”
  • Second, “If I run X, I’ll be happy –I earned this, let’s go have a beer and celebrate.”
  • Lastly, “If I run X, I’ll levitate from the ground with glee because the marathon gods went to work today and a miracle happened.”

In the case of Boston 2013, I was looking at over 4:00, 3:50 and 3:35 respectively, but all I really wanted was a pleasant/joyful experience.  So when I crossed the finish line and the clock read 3:51:16, one would have thought I be happy as I was behind the start, and I’d actually run 3:45:18. I was right where I’d expected to be.

If time was the only thing that mattered on a marathon course.

I would have been dizzy with glee. Unfortunately, Boston goes down as one of my toughest and most painful race experiences. I was already in tears, well before the national tragedy.  I won’t go into much detail, A: because it doesn’t matter now and B: because I’d rather not relive it. But everything hurt after mile 18. Stomach cramps and razor edge blisters were icing on the cake. How I ended up sunburned and chilled to the bone at the same time seems to be a natural phenomena that only this marathon can explain.

  • There was a lot of me that wanted to walk. If only it didn’t take so much longer.
  • There was a lot of me that wanted to hide. To chill in a medical tent and let my stomach calm down
  • There was a lot of me that wanted to quit. I do things for fun, and after mile 18, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

It’s that darn stubborn runner spirit just wouldn’t let up and I just kept running  (#1). I didn’t even stop for water after mile 20 because I just needed to finish. I am sad and regret that I didn’t even have the energy to pay thanks the beautiful Boston crowds. They lined the streets the entire 26.2 mile course with their smiles, signs, beers and cheers.  It really is like nothing I’ve ever seen in racing before. Roaring for every single runner, for the spirit of the 117th Boston marathon. Strangers encouraging strangers in the essence of athleticism is truly beautiful and inspiring. And sadly, at the time…

I just wanted everybody to shut up and get out of my way.

Anybody who knows me likely wouldn’t have recognized me as the fierce, head down, angry runner versus the one who is always in smiles, clapping, high fiving and waving. I’m always on a mission to pay gratitude to the spectators and show how fun running can be. On Monday, I was in no mood to prove a point, I just wanted to get off that Fu*&@#$ing course.

And the race was over and I thought the despair was over too.

You cross the finish and let everything out that has been tied up for the past three to four hours. I’d have cried on the course. If fact I did at mile 25 but lost my breath and had to talk myself out of it.

  • I was mad.
  • I was in pain.
  • I was cold.
  • I was tired.
  • I was lost.
  • I was confused.
  • I was hurt.
  • I was hungry.
  • I was afraid I’d really ruined myself.

Miraculously, I finished just 6 seconds behind my friend Kate and found her in a sea of thousands of people (#2). She had had a similar race and together we forged the recovery area, to our bags where I found my dead phone. She loaned me a sweatshirt that made all the difference, or maybe it was her companionship. Either way, I was truly relieved to be with her. We were lost and confuse and wandering in the wrong direction.

We were both grouchy, freezing cold, disoriented and disappointed.

We wandered back towards the finish line where I was hoping to find my boyfriend Jimmy at the VIP bleachers. Kate suggested I use her phone versus navigating back into that mess of a crowd at the finish line (#3). It turned out he was in the family reunion area 3 blocks over. So we turned left off Boylston 2 blocks from the finish instead of walking directly into what was literally chaos in just moments.

Not more than one minute later we heard a huge blast.

We just froze.  Looked at each other.   Maybe kept walking? Then a second, slightly less powerful, but equally alarming blast. Again, we froze. Stared at each other and then kept walking forward.  The blasts were bizarre and I do remember Kate saying “it sounded like a building blew up.” And I think I remember saying or at the very least thinking “it seems odd that no one is concerned about that noise…”

But it was only because we just didn’t know yet.

Things like that just don’t happen in real life. And certainly not in places as secure as the finish line of one of 5 world marathons.  I was in so much pain, so freezing cold, so over the crowds, I just wanted to get out of there. Kate had to find her ride and I didn’t want to keep her in the cold any longer. I hugged her goodbye and went forward to find Jimmy.  It was a crowded mess and I started crying. The pain, cold, and frustration had gotten the best of me. I was really lost, tired, unnerved and confused. The family reunion area, while crowded and chaotic, still had a  slightly celebratory spirit, as we simply didn’t know that just 3 blocks over, an attack had occurred.

Hundreds of people were injured, many had lost their limbs and 3, tragically, had lost their lives.

I couldn’t find Jimmy so I borrowed a gentleman’s phone to call him again. While waiting, he looked as confused/concerned as I felt. He was there with his baby girl and said he was trying to find his wife. She was in the medical tent for routine marathon recovery and they had moved her for “trauma victims” WHAT!?! Then a younger gal ran up and said it was “a bomb. Bombs went off! My boyfriend said those blasts were bombs.” OMG! How much more anxiety can a body take? I turned and there was Jimmy. With a huge smile on his face. The congratulatory look of “you just ran a good race, smile…”

At the time, many people in the area thought he blasts were celebratory cannons going off and no cause for concern.

I burrowed my face in his chest and cried. You don’t always know why you are crying and when you are physically and emotionally exhausted, you certainly don’t get to be discriminative. But my most painful race ever coupled with the confusion of what was unfolding was too much for me.

From that point on, I stopped. I turned off and he carried me on every level.

Wrapped me up in his ski jacket and somehow got us back to the hotel through the traffic with the sirens and under the helicopters. It’s all fuzzy and blurry. I know we had spent some time in a pizza restaurant charging a phone so he could post on FB to our friends and family that we were not physically harmed. The love and concern was overwhelming. Everybody had seen the footage on the news, granting them an understanding to the severity and gravity of the situation much better than we had at the time.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for social media in all my life.

Being able to tell hundreds of people in just one post that we were safe, saved us hours on the phone and allowed us to put many minds at ease in minutes. The pizza place is also where I saw the images of the finish line I had just crossed and the reality of what had really happened was setting in. Now, just about 30 hours later, I think it’s still setting in…I understand more now, what I didn’t at the time. The calls, posts, text of true panic and fear for us were real. Terror had struck the finish line at a marathon I had just run. The worst thing had happened, and it’s was more than likely that we could and in many cases should have been right in the middle of it.

In a bungalow of safety at the Double Tree

I charged my phone, took a bath and tried to unravel all that was tied up inside. Jimmy dropped me in the tub and took off for the famous Lobster Sandwich he’d wanted since the day we arrived. He came home with wonderful take out and a bottle of wine. I was finally able to respond to friends and family and it was a tearful night. Everyday you should pay thanks to the ones you love. But days like April 15, 2013 leave you no choice. Things can change at the drop of a hat. If #1, #2, and #3 and a zillion other things I don’t’ even know about hadn’t happened, I’d have been right there and Jimmy would have been waiting.

There aren’t words and there is no reason.

I thought a lot today about what I would write on this flight home tonight. I mostly want to tell a story of what happened, because so many (luckily) won’t ever know what it was like to be there. Unfortunately, I still don’t really know how to sum things up or what final points to make. I don’t have a key message or any understanding of how people can be so cruel. But I will choose to remember the cheer and support from the amazing crowd and the brave that rushed to help those in need. I will remember I had a wonderful weekend with the ones I love and was reminded of how m any beautiful people are in my life. I will pay gratitude forward for the blessing that we are all safe and send my love and support to those still recovering from the trauma.

My Future Marathon days are in question.

I am supposed to run New York this November. I am really on the fence about that now…only time will tell if I’ll put my distance shoes back on any time soon. I will always run, I am a runner. But how far, where and when is definitely to be determined.

Here are some pics from the weekend, it started out so fun…

2013-04-14 13.41.56

 (Playing tourist with Jimmy at Fenway Park Sunday)

2013-04-15 09.10.15

(Killing time at start line with Angela, not only is she really fast, she’s really good at Go Fish!)

IMG_1249

(Just about to finish, the first bomb went off just behind those blue signs 20 minutes later)

2013-04-16 14.25.32

(April 16, 2013 Front Page of Boston Globe)

IMG_1271

(Gourmet Takeout in the Double Tree – Different Kind of Post Race Party)

Boston Marathon News

(Back Home telling KUSI about experience – only 120 San Diego runners were there)

2013 Boston Marathon Finishers

(Here is Kate — we were together in Boston at the finish line and together for the explosions)

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15 Comments

  • sheri

    T – Thankyu for sharing. I can’t even imagine but reading your story I felt like I was there. I have chills. I am gald you are ok, home safe, life changing and unforgettable in ways the Boston marathon usually is, without all of these things. xo

    Reply

  • Taylor

    Glad you and Jimmy are safe! And Congratulations on finishing!

    Reply

  • Liz Moretti

    T- I am so glad you are safe and sound back in SD. I thought of you the whole time! Thank you for sharing your experience! All the best xoxo!

    Reply

  • Kate @ SoCal Runner Gal

    Oh my goodness. Just reading this made me cry all over again. I am so glad I was with you at that moment. I was scared and confused when we separated but so grateful that I had found you at the finish. At least I knew YOU were okay. I feel forever bonded with you after this. As if I didn’t love you enough to begin with…

    Keep your chin up. Today has been an emotional day for me as I am finally starting to process everything. I’m sure you’re in the same boat — so I’m sending my love. XO I can’t wait to see you.

    Reply

  • beccakferrick

    amazing. i dont know you but my friend Calli posted this story on Facebook and i had to read it. So happy you and your boyfriend are okay. what a horrible event to live through! you have a great spirit

    Reply

  • Tansy

    Love you T$! So proud of this accomplishment, thanks so much for sharing your experience and friendship with me. 🙂

    Reply

  • Steve Howes

    Hey, that was really well written.

    Reply

  • Lisa

    Teresa, I’m SO glad that you and Jimmy are safe. Thank you for having the courage to write about it and share. Lots of love.

    Reply

  • Barbara

    No words T, just love and gratitude. xoxo

    Reply

  • Marisa Vallbona

    After all those miles and years of training and talking about Boston, I’m so so sorry it happened in a way nobody could ever have imagined. This race: a medal doesn’t begin to do it justice. You, and every runner, walker, volunteer and spectator who participated in it deserve so much more. I’ve told you this a million times and I’ll tell you again: you’re my hero and I love you.

    Reply

  • Angela Rebol

    You are strong, you are brave, you are so many things…but most of all – you are my friend. I love you Teresa Marie Howes…and whatever life throws…we run through together with a smile. the fun is just beginning, we just have a new appreciation for life and the human spirit…I miss you already and will be running with you soon!

    Reply

  • David Cox

    Thank God you were safe (and fast!) my dear. Of course I thought of you right away.
    Bear

    Reply

  • Beth

    What a powerful story. Thank you for sharing this. (I am Jimmy’s cousin Beth, a marathon runner myself.)

    Reply

  • nicole miles (@nicmiles)

    Thank you for sharing your experience. We are so thankful you are home, Teresa!!! Big hugs and prayers. XOXO

    Reply

  • Kara

    So glad you’re okay – thank you for sharing your experience here, though I imagine it was probably very traumatic to live through it all over again. Please don’t let this event make your decision for you re: NY in November. Let that “runners spirit” of yours do it for you. 🙂

    Reply

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